the names of the various dishes do reveal their specific local origins to those

The names of the various dishes do reveal their

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the names of the various dishes do reveal their specific local origins to those who recognize the names. Of course, all cui- sines, however local, reflect the aggregation upward of more humble and idiosyncratic cuisines from as far down as individual household culinary styles. Such telescoping and recategorization is also doubtlessly a slow and constant feature of history in complex societies. But certain regional forms and levels are relatively stable and well formed in the Indian case, and it is these that are now being vigorously articulated in print, juxtaposed, and reaggregated. One consequence of the bustling marketplace of regional and ethnic culi- nary images is the sense of advocacy that animates many of the authors, who seem aware that there is a good deal of crowding in the gallery of regional or ethnic cuisines and some danger of exclusion from it. Thus Ummi Abdullah, who has produced a specialized book on MalabarMuslim Cookery, states: "I would consider my efforts recompensed if at least some of the traditional Moplah recipes find a permanent place on the Indian menu" (1981:4). A slightly different strategy is exemplified by Shanta Ranga Rao, who boldly calls her book Good Food From India (1968), though it is exclusively a collection of recipes from a rather small subcommunity from a microregion in South India. Books like the one by Shanta Ranga Rao remind us that Indian regional or ethnic cookbooks in English are the self-conscious flip side of books that are engaged in constructing a national cuisine. In this, they differ markedly from vernacular cookbooks, which take their regional context and audience largely for granted. The new cookbooks are not simple or mechanical replicas of existing oral repertoires. The transition to print in this particular social and cultural context results in a good deal of editing. Most of the ethnic or regional books are selective in specific ways. When written by insiders, they represent fairly complex compromises between the urge to be authentic and thus to include difficult (and perhaps, to the outsider, disgusting) items and the urge to disseminate and popularize the most easily understood and appreciated items, and to promote those already popular, from one's special repertoire. Outsiders who write these books, on the other hand, end up including the easy-to-grasp and more portable examples from alien ethnic or regional cuisines, partly because their own tastes for the exotic are first nurtured in restaurants or other public eating contexts, where the subtleties of that cuisine (which are often domestic) have already been pared down. In both cases, one of the results of the exchange of culinary images is the elimination of the most exotic, pecu- liar, distinctive, or domestic nuances in a particular specialized cuisine. In national or "Indian" cookbooks, of course, the selective process is much more obtrusive, and whole regional idioms are represented by a few "charac- teristic" dishes, which frequently are not, from the insider's perspective, the best candidates for this role.
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